The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday discussed a statewide measure on the Nov. 4 ballot that would let a $250,000 cap on medical malpractice damages for pain and suffering rise to $1.1 million.
Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe said they opposed Proposition 46, because it would divert funds from patient care.
“If enacted, Proposition 46 could again threaten the health care system in California,” read a motion submitted by Ridley-Thomas and Knabe. “The diversion of county funds to pay for increased judgment settlements and litigation expenses would not improve patient care … for the millions of residents served by the county’s health care safety net.”
Supervisor Gloria Molina said she didn’t think that the county should be taking a position on the measure. She wanted a vote put off for a week, and her colleagues agreed to that.
“I have certainly been a critic of escalating medical costs,” Molina said. “At the same time, I do know that there has to be accountability.”
Opponents Prop 46 argued that a call for accountability hid the real intent — to enrich trial lawyers at the expense of patients.
“The neediest among us are those who will be most negatively affected,” said Dr. Sion Roy, a cardiologist at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
The medical reform measure would require drug testing for doctors and immediately increase the damage cap legislated by the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), set in 1975. The limit applies only to non- economic damages for pain and suffering, while compensation for medical bills, lost wages and other economic damages are unlimited.
Backers say the measure brings malpractice awards in line with inflation.
“If $250,000 was reasonable in 1975, it is certainly unreasonable in 2014,” lawyer Jack Denove told the board.
People who say family members died because of medical malpractice addressed the board in support of Prop 46. Some said the $250,000 cap made it hard to find a lawyer willing to work for so little.
Joy Cull, whose daughter died while anesthesized for a diagnostic test, said she was frustrated by her inability to find out what happened.
“Because of the MICRA law, we can’t get any closer to the truth,” Cull said. “These doctors caused the death of my daughter, covered it up and got away with it.”
A vote by the board is expected next week.
— City News Service